“Minoxidil works by prolonging the ‘growth’ phase of hair follicles, which means your hair spends more time growing and less time shedding.”
We’ve done our homework so that you don’t have to
Concerned about hair loss? If that’s the case, chances are you’ve probably gone online to figure out why you’re losing your hair and what – if anything – you can do about it. In fact, there’s a good chance that you’ve come across this site for that very reason (hurray!)
The internet is an incredible information resource. But oftentimes researching a topic online – especially when it comes to wellness – can feel like drinking from a firehose. There are so many blogs, websites, forum posts, each with their own opinion on whatever it is you’re googling. It’s easy to quickly become overwhelmed.
This is what we noticed when we first started out on our hair loss internet research journey. And unfortunately, in the case of hair loss, the signal-to-noise ratio is particularly low. So how to separate the wheat from the chaff? Well you can usually find the most reliable information about health and wellness in write-ups of scientific studies in reputable academic journals. But who has time to read all these scientific studies in detail? Hardly anyone. That’s why we’ve done the hard work for you and present only the key takeaways from numerous studies. You’re welcome.
What’s the deal with Minoxidil?
According to our many hours of research, not only is Minoxidil proven to work, it is the only topical hair loss treatment that is proven to work. (Side note: Finasteride is also proven to work, however it’s not a topical treatment. Hence why we say that Minoxidil is the only proven topical treatment.) There are numerous scientific studies that support the effectiveness of high-strength Minoxidil in slowing, stopping and in some cases reversing hair loss. We’ve summarised some of the findings later on in this article, in case you want to do a deep dive.
Scientists believe that Minoxidil works by prolonging the Anagen or ‘growth’ phase of hair follicles, which means your hair spends more time growing and less time shedding. That’s right, your hair goes through phases – we’ve got an article about that here.
As a bonus, there’s an interesting story about how Minoxidil was discovered, which you can learn more about here.
What do the studies say about Minoxidil? Here are the key takeaways:
- The results from the studies on Minoxidil are clear and the consistency of research results is very high.
- Topical application of Minoxidil is highly effective as a hair loss medication. Minoxidil increases the rate of hair regrowth and can reverse hair loss, especially on the crown of the head.
- The exact mechanisms for how Minoxidil works are unknown, but scientists believe that it prolongs the Anagen growth phase of hair follicles, which stimulates them to produce stronger, thicker hair. At stronger concentrations of around 5%, Minoxidil also increases blood flow to hair follicles, strengthening them.
- Higher concentrations of Minoxidil of around 5% appear to be more effective than concentrations around 2%, but they are not twice as effective. There is a diminishing effectiveness as the concentration increases.
- Minoxidil is a way to prolong the life of your hair and is not a magic cure for baldness. If you stop taking Minoxidil, you will return to your previous hair loss pattern within 4-6 months.
- The best results were observed in people who used Minoxidil twice a day, by applying it directly to the scalp.
- As an example, one study found that 5% strength Minoxidil used for 16 weeks resulted in 71% of patients self-reporting an improvement in hair count, relative to 42% improvement in a placebo group. Investigators determined that 38% of patients had hair regrowth compared to 5% in the placebo group.
Some other stuff you might want to know about Minoxidil:
- It is possible to experience some hair shedding when starting to use Minoxidil. This is caused by the hair follicles growing new hairs, which makes the old hairs fall out.
- The most common side effects of Minoxidil are itchy skin, skin irritation and dermatitis, with a slightly higher rate of hair growing on places other than the scalp, such as the forehead and sideburns.
- The skin irritation side effects sometimes associated with Minoxidil use are often caused by the other ingredients used in the Minoxidil solution, such as ethanol.
The Studies in More Detail
Key insight: 5% Minoxidil was equally effective in inducing hair regrowth when compared to Finasteride 1mg, but had a lower response rate as well as fewer clinically relevant side effects (deemed minor in both groups)
Number of subjects: 25
Key insight: 5% Minoxidil was significantly more effective than 2% Minoxidil when measured at 8 weeks as well as 48 weeks, with the degree of efficacy being 45% greater at 48 weeks. Both groups were significantly better than placebo.
Number of subjects: 393
Key insight: 2% and 5% Minoxidil were both effective at inducing and preserving an increase in hair weight and hair count after 2 years of sustained usage.
Number of subjects: 36
Key insight: 5% Minoxidil was found to be more than twice as effective as Zinc Pyrithione 1% shampoo, although the latter was also shown to be effective in this study.
Number of subjects: 200
Key insight: 5% Minoxidil appears to be significantly better than placebo at increasing hair regrowth in as little as 16 weeks
Number of subjects: 352
Key insight: 5% Minoxidil was more effective than 2% when measured at 48 weeks in women with alopecia
Number of subjects: 381
Key insight: Hair regrowth was compared with a Minoxidil 1% solution and a Minoxidil 5% solution. While 5% solution was significantly more effective it was not five times more effective.
Number of subjects: 300